By Sarah Trefethen
Student pranksters are getting into real estate.
New York news outlets on Monday received an emailed press release claiming to be from representatives of Cooper Union, the 153-year-old, East Village-based undergraduate college famous for its art and architecture programs and free tuition.
The release announced that the school had entered into an agreement with neighboring academic behemoth New York University to lease the recently constructed 41 Cooper Square beginning in 2015.
The news website Gothamist ran the story —only to retract the report later that day.
Cooper Union officials issued a statement that called the Gothamist story “totally false,” and John Beckman, NYU spokesman, described the announcement in an email as “hogwash.”
The fake news release directs readers to a website, still active Tuesday afternoon, which claims to serve as an information hub for an official relocation task force charged with identifying alternative locations for Cooper Union’s engineering school and art studios starting in the 2015 semester.
The site is not an official Cooper Union site, according to Jolene Travis, the school’s assistant director of public affairs. She could not comment on any efforts to remove the misleading page from the Internet.
The prank comes at a time when NYU’s controversial plan to expand in Greenwich Village is under public review, and just days after the university had agreed to a 20 percent reduction in the floor area of its proposal.
Both the fake press release and the relocation site claim that the supposed lease would allow Cooper Union to continue offering full scholarships to all its students, a practice that Jamshed Bharucha, the college president, has said may need to end in light of financial troubles.
Gothamist followed up on the stunt and traced it to a Cooper Union junior, Alan Lundgard, who in emails to the news site took full credit for the misinformation.
“The question has become: what do we consider more expendable, a 110-year tradition dedicated to the value of tuition-free, merit-based education, or a three-year-old trophy building that is partially responsible for the institution’s current fiscal turmoil?” the student wrote.